Now more than ever, brands need a robust and complete marketing plan – even before they have named their company. I am not kidding. Your marketing plan – which includes crucial sections such as brand strategy, positioning, brand naming, brand identity development, product development and pricing, outlining your distribution, sales and retention plans, marketing channels and campaigns etc should be the first thing to start working on when you have decided to launch a new brand.
Sections of a great brand marketing plan
It is important to understand that there can be no such thing as a universal marketing plan. That is because each industry and market segment is different and how you approach the story or messaging for that sector would be different. This article is meant to be a general guide which layout all the important section you need to work on. If you are new to branding, then I suggest you start with this step by step guide first.
Scope of the marketing plan
Before anything else, I am sure we all agree that good planning is required to launch and run a successful business. A brand marketing plan is a roadmap that outlines all the strategies, tasks, activities and costs that would be needed to make your venture a success. First we start with the scope of the plan so we can understand the goals and what we are taking on.
Here we start with describing our company, business and brand along with the markets we serve, the product or service we wish to sell and a high level description of the marketing plan, strategic goals and financial goals.
In this section we will outline how we plan to differentiate our brand and our offering in the marketplace and stand out in the competitive landscape. We need to research and document the characteristics of the market as well as build detailed buyer personas to understand the buyer’s journey.
In this section, we outline the entire experience that our target audience will have with our brand and our offering. We talk about the brand story, personality, vision and what we represent. We work out the promise we deliver to the market.
Product, Service and Pricing
In this section we describe our products and services and analyze their suitability in the market and the fit to our target market. We then define our pricing strategy which should be consistent with our positioning strategy and the value we are delivering to the market.
Distribution, Sales and Retention Plan
This section outlines the distribution channels we need to focus on to access our market along with any direct sales plans and upselling and cross-selling customers.
This section outlines the major marketing campaigns we could run and include media such as email marketing, social media marketing, publicity and other traditional media.
Scope & Objectives of the marketing plan
A marketing plan can be very simple one paged or could be a 50+ page document covering every possible scenario. In my book, I would not listen to people who say that the simpler a marketing plan is, the better. The logic behind that is that things change and that even the best laid plans crumble when faced with reality.
I advocate a middle path. A great marketing plan should be detailed enough to act as a guide when we go about building the company and we refer to each section before engage in the activities. This is as important as knowing how to figure out the ROI of your marketing strategy.
To begin with, establish a rough timeline for your marketing plan and make sure you add in some padding and buffer for each section. Underestimating the time a particular section or task takes would be the downfall of any marketing plan.
In the objectives section of the company, we are trying to describe the company, the markets we serve, the products or services that we are offering and high level strategic goals.
The company introduction would serve to give any potential investors the background information on the brand and help make sense as to why the venture is interesting.
Products & Services
Clearly describe your product or service including details of the problems they solve and how they would make your customers lives better. You can not be too detailed and often as you go through this section, you will start realizing things about your product or service that you never thought of before and those that add more value to your brand.
A description of the market we want to play in along with a detailed description of market forces that may influence your brand. This is very critical to anticipate potential obstacles.
Here we list down some high level strategic goals such as perhaps increasing market share, out gunning competition, building brand awareness, creating strategic partnerships or increasing publicity.
Here we list potential numeric goals that our business must achieve. These include total revenues, new customers, distribution channels, market share etc.
To build a successful brand, it is important to analyze your markets and your positioning for each market. You do this by understanding the market and then defining how you will differentiate your brand and your offering in that market to create maximum value.
It is all about standing out in the competitive landscape. But please do not confuse this being loud and attracting attention. That comes under marketing campaigns. Here we are talking about fundamental and real differentiation that goes deep into the soul of the brand.
Start by creating detailed market profile. Try and understand the pain points that your product or service is trying to address. Who are your customers? What is their world view? Create detailed and robust buyer personas.
When analyzing the market, you should look at the following:
- The industry or industries you are addressing
- Define the market size
- The geographical area you plan to cover
- If it is B2B then the idea company size, stage and structure
- Who makes the buying decisions?
- How is the competitive landscape?
- Trends in your market
- Is your market growing or contracting?
- What are the influences on the market?
- What stage is your market lifecycle – introduction, growth, maturity or decline?
The last one is particularly import to figure out since the stage of your market lifecycle will determine your positioning approach. For example:
- If your market is in the introductory stage then you will need your prospects there is a problem and that your solution is needed by them. You will have to build awareness by educating the audience on the problem as well as the solution.
- If your market is in the growth stage then you would focus on why your target market should buy from you and how you are different and better than your competition.
- If your market is in the maturity stage then you would be better off focusing on why your product or service is better. You may have to look at your pricing strategy more carefully in this stage.
- If your market is in the decline stage, then you may be forced to focus on price or try and go niche while innovating to increase market share or the price.
Market Segmentation / Buyer Personas
Once you have analyzed your market in detail, it is time to segment your market and create detailed buyer personas. A detailed buyer profile will help you understand your buyers journey which then helps you define your positioning strategy.
Your market segmentation can be based on one or more of the following:
- The problems being faced by your potential customers and the solutions they have on hand
- The buyer personas themselves
- Purely industry or geographic segments
When evaluating problems faced by your customers, consider the following:
- How are your potential customers solving their problem at the moment?
- How is the competition solving these problems for your customers?
- Do you have a better solution you can offer?
- What is the most important thing to your customers?
- Why should the customers buy from you rather than your competition?
When looking at your product or service, be very critical. Do you merely think that you have a better solution or is it really the case? Most businesses think they have a better product or service. The reality is the very few really do have a differentiating offering.
Creating a detailed and realistic buyer persona can shed light into your customers world view and enable you to craft a positioning strategy that will directly connect with them. The goal is to create a strategy that will make your brand a cult.
Here is a detailed guide on how to create buyer personas.
Thinking about your competitors is an important part of your positioning strategy. You will need to research your competition for your brand success. By doing this you will also be able to shed light on new opportunities or identify mindshare owned by an competitor that you can aspire to.
Start by figuring out the criteria that you will use to rate your competitors against your brand. Different market segments may require different criteria so don’t be lazy when coming up with the list. Examples if the criteria could be things like price, quality, uniqueness, features, service, innovation, brand recall, reputation, market share and so on.
Once you have completed the rating, try and answer questions such as
- Where do you score high or low in term of categories?
- Are there any categories where you score quite low?
- Do you see any categories where you think you can improve the score right away?
Once this is completed, it would be worthwhile to conduct a SWOT analysis which will give you a great visual to help with your strategy. It will help you summarize your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Dovetailing from this, it would also help if you can try and figure out your competitors value propositions. Value propositions can be of three types – either your competitors deliver value through operational efficiency or they do so with product leadership and innovation or they have super customer service which makes them stand out. Knowing which of these three options your competitors are utilizing in their positioning strategy would be invaluable.
A brand is defined as the complete experience that your prospects and customers have with your business. It is the promise you make to your audience and the one that you keep. It does include visual elements such as the brand logo design, brand identity, brand website, marketing materials etc but they are only a part of the brand experience.
A brand strategy would include the messages your broadcast, the service your provide, your terms and your policies, the emotion your brand evokes and the personality of your brand.
Figuring out the emotion that your brand needs to tap is fundamental to your brand strategy. Part of this is to determine wether your brand is focusing on features or benefits. It is not enough to simply say that your brand should always talk about the benefits of your product or service. Some markets may require focus on presenting the features while others would benefit from talking about the benefits.
In an article on how to create an emotional brand, I listed the following tips which help create a winning brand essence:
- Differentiate Between “Features” And “Benefits” – a feature is something that your product or service does while a benefit is how your customer feels from using the product or service.
- Understand What Needs People Have – Figuring out which features of your product or service would translate to emotional benefits should be done with caution and by always keeping in line with your brand’s core values. If an emotional benefit seems manipulative and counter initiate to what your brand stands for, it should not be used.
- Create Meaningful Connections With Your Customers – Creating meaningful connections with your customers is the right strategy. This starts with identifying the right kind of emotional benefits that your product or service has and then communicating that to your target market. It is about avoiding over promising and under delivering. It is about keeping your brand promise.
- Use Emotions To Differentiate Your Brand – If you can figure your brand’s genuine emotional values and communicate that effectively, then you will differentiate your brand and gain not only mind share but also market share.
- What Does Your Brand Mean To Your Customers? – Figuring out what your brand means or should mean to your customers is a critical task when building a successful brand. Does your brand stand for something in your customer’s minds? Does it connect with them in a unique and fresh way? Does it inspire trust and confidence in them?
To define the experience prospects and customers should have with your brand, start with identifying the personality traits of your brand. If your brand was a human, how would you describe her? Human personality traits would help you come up with creative messaging that would leave your target audience with a great brand experience.
What does your brand stand for? What promise(s) do you make to your target audience?
The first think to note is that a brand promise is not simply a description of what the company does or offers to its customers. It is what it promises them beyond the service or product on offer. It is the promise of how it will deliver value to the market place.
Brand Visual Language
When business owners look at their brand’s visual imagery, they usually think of the obvious ones such as their logo design, stationery design and perhaps a few other elements such as their social media channels and their website design all of which simply have their logo slapped onto them.
But a brand’s visual imagery goes much deeper than that. It goes into secondary brand marks, official brand patterns, package design, tone of brand visual imagery & photos and more.
Translating your brand mission into a distinctive visual identity is fundamental to differentiating your brand in the market.
Product, Service & Pricing
Once you have clearly defined your product or service, you would need to consider your pricing strategy. Your pricing is an important factor and it reflects the value your provide to the market and also what the market is truly willing to pay for such value. Your pricing enables you to revenue goals and have the most important thing in a business – profit.
Bad pricing can kill your business. Your pricing strategy must be based on value. Or at least you should strive to get to that. As mentioned above, if your market lifecycle stage is either mature or declining, then you will be sucked into pricing wars just to keep up with competition. In those situations, this guide and the mantra of brand positioning strategy is even more important.
Price your product or service too low and you will attract the wrong customer. Price it too high and you will edge yourself out of the market. The trick is to build your brand in such a way that you do not have to be at the mercy of marketing pricing and can command a premium.
If your value proposition is one of being operationally efficient then you can afford to have pricing similar to or even lower than your competition to succeed. If you are a product leader or innovator then you can afford to have premium prices. And if your customer service is the driver and you deliver luxury experiences, then you can command luxury prices.
Distribution & Sales Plans
You may wonder why we are talking about sales in a guide on creating marketing plans. As I said in the beginning, our marketing plan will be a blueprint that covers all activities that you undertake to generate revenue and profits. Identifying distribution channels and creating a summary of a sales plan is also very important at this stage.
There can be many different types of distribution channels and it is time to analyze and identify which ones you should focus on. Channels can include direct sales, online sales, catalog sales, wholesales and distributor sales, dealers and retail sales etc.
If you planning on launching a new product or service into a large market fairly rapidly, then going for a channel with a large sales force or a large retailer would be the best strategy. Of is you are trying to grow your revenue quickly then you will have to look at multiple streams of revenue through multiple channels.
Once you have identified your main distribution channels, you can then outline a sales plan summary for each of them. Use the buyer personas you had created above to aid in your finding out the best sales tactics to use. For example, if your buyer hangs out on Facebook a lot then your sales plan should include sales offers, discounts, coupons and other social media marketing tactics.
This section results from the culmination of your marketing plan sections above. You would need to research, identify and come up with marketing campaigns that can include media such as email marketing, social media marketing, search engine marketing, direct marketing through the phone, trade shows, online media, TV, magazines and traditional publicity.
At this stage, you do not need to list every single detail of the campaigns you will run in a given time period – a quarter or for the full year etc. You simply need to outline high-level plans with a few ideas and perhaps even a rough indication of the budget.
A few examples of items in your campaigns plan:
- Top 3-4 campaigns you will run and the channels they would be in
- How you plan to use media (emails, social media etc)
- Software and tools you plan to use
- Some rough goals that the campaigns should generate
Although these campaigns plans may significantly change when they are implemented, at this stage, they would serve to give you milestones on the marketing calendar and also help with budgeting.
Admittedly this is a vast topic that I chose to write into a single article. I did however include a lot of links and references to other detailed articles on each of the concepts that I introduce here. Marketing is an art and this guide will help you get started on a blueprint. As go along, you will have to adjust the plan according to your own situation, market, brand values and so on.
If you have any direct questions about this topic, please feel free to reach to me from our Contact Page.